Friday, August 22, 2008

Channel Islands - Santa Cruz - Scorpion Bay

On Tuesday my buddy Jeff and I went to Santa Cruz Island ( part of the Channel Islands off the coast of Ventura) to camp, kayak, free dive, and hike.  We took a boat through Island Packers Company over to the island (about an hour away).  In order to camp I had to reserve a campsite (no first come first serve) through the national park system.  

So on  our way over we saw about 100 common dolphins jumping and playing in the wake of our boat.  This was incredible, dolphins jumping and playing all around the boat.  This was just one more added bonus to the camping trip.

When we got to the island we unloaded our gear and kayaks (they transport personal kayaks for 14 bucks) and headed to our campground.  I reserved site #11 which is a little more removed from the rest of the campsites, sites 2 and 14 are also good sites to have.  It was only about a 10 minute walk to our campsite where we set up our tent and then went back to the bay to go kayaking.  Jeff and I put our snorkel and fins in our kayaks and headed north around the bay, going in and out of caves.  These caves were amazing, and the swell was mellow which allowed us easy access through them.  After about an hour of kayaking we found a remote place to beach our kayaks and go snorkeling.  We snorkeled for about 40 minutes.  The visibility was 15-2o feet.  We saw an array of sea life, pink abalone, Garibaldi, starfish, sea slugs, bat rays, lobster, an assortment of fish, anemones, corral, a small shark (type...I forget) and my favorite a friendly seal.  The seal hung out with us just about the whole time we were diving.  They are very playful creatures, the seal swam above, below and to the side of us.  The seal got within 2 feet from my face and started to play with my fins.  After we were done diving we had to say good bye to  the seal and kayaked back to Scorpion Bay.

When we got back to our campground we traded in our kayaks for our hiking shoes and took a hike up to Potato Cove and Cavern Point.  This hike followed the cliffs of the island making for great pacific views.  Upon returning to our campsite we made dinner and had a few tasty beverages (Steel Reserve......thanks Jeff! :-).  Once the sun went down we headed back to the bay and checked out the moon.  I have never seen the moon rise over the ocean like this.  Looking east towards Los Angeles an orange glow appeared.  A few minutes later a bright orange(almost full) moon started to rise.  It was awesome!

The next morning we slowly woke up and put on our somewhat dry wetsuits and kayaked down the southern edge of the island.  After and hour or so we headed back and kayaked back north of the bay.  We went to a different cove that didn't have a good place to beach our kayaks so we tied them to some kelp and dove off our kayaks.  Personally, I enjoyed diving and kayaking north of the bay rather than the southern edge.   That morning our friend the seal was not around but it was still great to go diving.  After about 3 hours of being out we returned to our campsite and rested and waited for the boat to pick us up around 4.   We were pretty beat from the kayaking and diving and didn't have much energy to do anything more than chill.  On our way back on the boat we saw more dolphins jumping and playing next to the boat, which is always nice.  

All and all it was an awesome trip!  My buddy Anneke who suggested this trip was right.  This was definitely a great get away that is affordable and doable in a weekend.  Camping is 15 dollars a night and the boat transportation is 64 dollars plus 14 for a kayak.  Note, if you want to bring a kayak you need to reserve a kayak spot on the boat.  Island Packers can only reserve about 14 each trip.  So don't make your camping reservation before your boat reservation.  Go online check the availability of campsites, then call Island Packers reserve tickets and then reserve a campsite. 

Camping Reservations:  Scorpion Bay - Santa Cruz
Island Packers: Boat Transportation

Note:  It is super chill camping, nice bathrooms and clean drinkable water.  
If camping isn't you idea of fun you can take a boat over to the islands in the morning and return in the late afternoon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Horseshoe Meadow Backpacking

This trip was originally suppose to be a Mt. Langley summit climb but soon faded to a leisurely backpacking trip.  I signed up with the Sierra Club to do this climb.  I also needed this trip in order to graduate WTC (the wilderness class I took last winter).   I was excited to do this trip as one of my goals is to climb all of California's 14,000 foot  peaks.  Unfortunately, the Sierra Club trip was misrepresented in labeling the trip as a Mt. Langley climb.  It should have been labeled a leisurely Cirque Peak climb, which is 12,900 feet.  

Thursday:  Drove up to Horseshoe Meadow (Golden Trout) parking lot and spent the night in the car.
Friday:  I packed up my gear and met up with the 2 Sierra Club leaders and the 5 other group members. I shared a tent with David Hong a fellow WTC classmate.  Cary couldn't make the trip due to food poisoning.  We left the Golden  Trout trail head and headed up the mountain around 11am.  7 miles and 8 hrs later we reached our camping area just below the unnamed lake just west of Cirque peak.   Half way to our camp site we stopped at Chicken Spring lake to get water and take a break(one of many). 
Saturday: Most of the group members were ready to leave at 7, however, we had to wait another hour or so for one of the leaders to get ready.  This pushed our starting time from 7 to 8.  So with the late start we headed down the PCT until we hit the wilderness border about a mile down the trail.  We then did some cross-country climbing up the ridge until we hit New Army Pass.  We stashed some water bottles to lighten our weight climbing the mountain.  At this point I knew we were not going to summit.  Our turn around time was 2 and it was already 11.  We still needed to climb 2200 feet and go 4 miles and at our very slow pace there was no way we were going to make it.  So we climbed until about 1:45 and stopped at 13,150 feet.  We took a 30 minute break and then headed back.  It was hard to handle the frustration and disappointment of not summitting.  What made it so frustrating was the fact that we didn't summit because of the late start (poor planning) of one of the leaders and the slow pace they took.  I could understand turning around because of bad weather, illness, or injury, but not because of poor planning and a slow pace.   The group members were disappointed as well because we all could have easily made it.  We trained for this for weeks, climbing peaks, running stairs and so on.  Even though I was disappointed I still couldn't believe just how beautiful the landscape was.  I was in the middle of  Cirque Peak, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Langley, and the Sequoia wilderness.  After we stopped climbing I changed my mindset for a summit climb to a leisurely backpacking trip.  This helped me enjoy the wilderness that surrounded me.  On the way back down I got to use the "go to" function on my GPS unit to lead us back to were we stashed our water.  I took a waypoint where we left our water, this waypoint later directed us back to the spot.  After we got back to our camp we shared our food and conversed over random topics.  The day's hiked totaled 9 miles and 2200 feet elevation gain in 11 hours.
Sunday:  We packed up our stuff and wanted to leave around 7:30, but once again we had to wait for one of our leaders.  2 members got fed up with waiting and signed themselves out and left around 8.  I know we were all thinking about doing that, but I didn't want to burn any bridges. After 5 hours of hiking we made it back to the trailhead and rushed down to the Pizza Factory where David, me and the leaders had some delicious pizza.

Reflection:  The trip had it's highs and lows.  I was frustrated by the lack of preparation and very slow pace, they should have never labeled it a Mt. Langley climbing trip,  they should have labeled it a leisurely Cirque peak climb.  Having said this, the leaders were very friendly and nice.  I enjoyed their company.  Even though we did not summit, it was still one of the most beautiful backpacking trips I have gone on, and that makes it all worth it!

Trip stats:
  • Total Mileage: 23 miles
  • Total Elevation: 3,800 feet
  • Trailhead:  Golden Trout to PCT.
  • Camp area:  Unnamed Lake off the PCT a few miles past Chicken Spring Lake.

note:  I have the GPS map info, however, I need to use my work computer to download the info.  I will get that up in a week or so.
  • Click on the pano picture to enlarge it.  

View Langley in a larger map